Croatia Observes Vukovar Remembrance Day

By 18 November 2018

ZAGREB, November 18, 2018 - Croatia is marking the 27th anniversary of the destruction of the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar following a 87-day siege, that ended on November 18, 1991 and claimed the lives of 1,624 Croatian soldiers and civilians.

The main commemoration will start outside the town hospital where 3,500 wounded people had been treated during a siege by the JNA and Serb paramilitary troops in 1991.

Participants in the commemoration, including war veterans and families of the war victims, will march through the city and stop at the Memorial Cemetery where wreath-laying ceremonies will be held by top state officials.

The battle of Vukovar

The battle of Vukovar was the fiercest and most protracted battle seen in Europe since 1945, and Vukovar was the first major European town to be entirely destroyed since World War Two.

The Remembrance Day is observed in memory of 18 November 1991 when the town's defence lines were broken after a three-month siege by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serb paramilitaries. The besieged city was defended by around 1,800 members of the National Guard Corps, police and volunteers of the self-organised Croatian Defence Force (HOS), organised into the 204th Croatian Army Brigade.

After the ravaged city fell into the hands of the JNA and Serb paramilitaries, around 22,000 local Croats and members of other ethnic groups were expelled and several thousand Croatian soldiers and civilians were taken to Serb-run prison camps.

Numerous crimes were committed against the defence forces and civilians, including a massacre of 200 soldiers and civilians from the hospital who were taken from the hospital on November 19 and killed at a former farm at Ovčara, outside the town, and buried in a mass grave.

According to data from the Vukovar Hospital, 1,624 Croatian soldiers and civilians were killed and 1,219 were wounded during the siege of the city. Around 3,600 Croatian soldiers and civilians were killed in the aggression on and subsequent occupation of the city. A total of 309 persons from the Vukovar area are still listed as missing.

In 1999, the Croatian Parliament adopted a decision proclaiming Vukovar Remembrance Day to honour all those who died defending the town – the symbol of Croatia's freedom. Vukovar Remembrance Day is also commemorated all over Croatia.

Almost every town in the country has a street named after Vukovar and on the eve of Remembrance Day candles were lit to mark Vukovar Remembrance Day.

Vukovar and other occupied areas in eastern Slavonia, Baranja and western Srijem returned to Croatia's constitutional and legal order on January 15, 1998, after he process of peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube River region ended.

For more on the Homeland War, click here.